The Symbol of Thanksgiving

I number gifts and I snap photos and I write graces and I post them here. A continual boasting of His love poured out; rain drops of great grace. But what’s the point of eucharisteo?

Is it a mere Joel Osteen type attempt at a false prosperity gospel to bring health, wealth, and happiness by speaking bold “words of faith” and gratefulness to leverage victory and gain? Is it another postmodern system of relativism that preaches thankfulness without acknowledging to Whom we ought to be thankful?

The apostle Paul answers these questions for us in Galatians 6:14:

Boast in the Cross

With the words God forbid, Paul makes it clear that any other ground for boasting is counterfeit and contrary to the Gospel. The cross was an object of shame to the Judaizers, and means little to legalists, but to the wretch who grasps amazing grace, the cross is the only symbol of thanksgiving.

Romans 2:4-5 teaches that we store up God’s wrath if we think lightly of the blessings we receive, not grasping that His kindness is meant to lead us to repentance and boasting in His death and resurrection.

While the Bible itself speaks of boasting in other things – in the glory of God (Romans 5:2), in our weaknesses (2 Cor. 11:30 & 12:9), in tribulations (Romans 5:3), and in the people of Christ (1 Thess. 2:19) – Paul is saying that all other boasting must still find its validity in the cross.

In his book The Passion of Jesus Christ, John Piper offers this truth:

Everything good, and everything bad that God turns for the good, was purchased by the sufferings of Christ…every legitimate pleasure in the world becomes a blood-bought evidence of Christ’s love and an occasion of boasting in the cross. When our hearts run back along the beam of blessing, to the source in the cross, then the worldliness of the blessing is dead, and Christ crucified is everything.” (emphasis mine)

And so we boast in our blessings because they find their dawn and their legitimacy in the cross.

 

In the still, the Spirit comes and He whispers a name.

Christ.

The counting of all blessings is ultimately summed up in One.” ~ Ann Voskamp

 

Thanksgiving Thursday: Unwrapping the Gifts

 

1146. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!

Amazing Grace

 

1111. Writing at a coffee shop during a rainstorm

 

1096. Sundresses; because every girl feels good in a sundress 🙂

 

1101. Take out from Three Margaritas

 

1118. Taking our Peanut up her first 14er

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1134. Snuggling on the couch with my Love, watching a late night movie

 

1144. A family walk that ended just as the rain began to pour

 

1090. Playing games and eating pizza during Peanut’s nap

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Please tell me, what gifts have you unwrapped this week?

 

 

photo credit

photo credit

Thanksgiving Thursday: For This Cause

Radically Grateful

Hebrews 12:6 tells us that the Lord disciplines those He loves, and let me tell you, friends, I have been well loved this week! The Lord has walked before me to lead and guide, beside me to commune and comfort, and behind me to chasten and restrain.

I stand amazed at how, when God is molding me to be more like Him, He usually places something in my path that leaves no room for doubt about His leading. I felt the Spirit brooding over me in loving conviction…and then came the defining moment.

I sat down to write this post on a different subject, but was drawn away by the newest post on another writer’s blog where she had penned:

 “How can we who profess to be Christ followers remain disconnected from the suffering of those who bear His image? Do not all people have equal value and dignity in the sight of God?

If our heart beats for what God’s heart beats, shouldn’t compassion for people and passion for His mission on this earth be our Holy Obsession? Am I not supposed to love my neighbor as myself? When good people do nothing, injustice thrives.”

You Were Made

There it was. “Have I not spoken?” “Yes, Lord.” Then came the clincher: a power-packed video; a heart changing, 34-minute coupe de gras to the selfish life He is asking me to leave.

“In a generation that is so passionate about causes, Jesus said that for this cause I came to earth. There’s one cause, that’s above every other cause, and justice flows out of the cause of the Gospel of Jesus Christ going forward…What good is [anything] if another generation arises after us that does not know the Lord?”

Please watch the video posted below with me, friends! Let’s pray that we faithfully take the baton of faith for the next generation, carry the cause of the Gospel of Jesus forward, and fulfill the mission set before us. And, in all, let’s praise Him for loving conviction and radical grace!

 

Unwrapping the Gifts

862. The discipline-love of the Lord

859. The freedom for which He set me free (Galatians 5:1)

851. A new writing adventure

825. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)

865. The scent of Snuggle laundry softener

718. Enjoying a good book and a glass of wine when the house is cozy, warm, and dark except one perfect reading lamp

836. Watching movies in bed while Skot works late

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864. Steak fajita quesadillas

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867. Bathtubs – which I’m sure were created for no other reason than filthy children

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Please tell me, what gifts have you unwrapped this week?

Thanksgiving Thursday, Did He Really Say That??

My daily devotions has taken me recently through the book of Daniel. From the first chapter to the last, I am reminded how very little the book – and every other book of the Bible, for that matter – holds to a quote that is mistakenly attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:

St Francis Misquote

The fact is that St. Francis never actually said these words, but instead lived within the tension between declaration and representation of the Gospel. He was himself a preacher, known for both compassion and severity. An early biographer wrote, “He denounced evil wherever he found it, and made no effort to palliate it; from him a life of sin was met with outspoken rebuke, not support.” The Gospel Coalition says of the often used misquote, “While there’s a nice and good sentiment in the statement…the notion as it is typically presented is neither practical, nor faithful to the Gospel of Christ. It does not align with St. Francis’ own practice.”

Still, those who are uncomfortable with overt or proactive proclamation of the Gospel are all too happy to use this idea to affirm their hesitant position. But from Noah to Moses to Esther to David to Nehemiah to Daniel to Malachi to Jesus to Paul to Peter to Timothy to John – and many in between – we see that this philosophy is entirely umbilbical.

The last verses of the last chapter in Matthew tell us, “Then Jesus came to them and said,…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

The translation of this passage implies aggressive teaching and instruction, not timid lip-zipping. Likewise, when Jude instructs believers to “earnestly contend for the faith,” he refers to contention by argument, reasoning, and holding fast to the principles of religion; to maintaining truth by living a steady life and speaking with a steady voice. The Gospel is a message, it is news, and how can anyone believe in One of whom they have not heard and how can they hear unless someone tells them? (Romans 10:14)

It is important to make a distinction between speaking truth and antagonistic rudeness. All words ought to be spoken in love and in the spirit of the Gospel. John MacArthur says that “Love of conflict is no less sinful than craven cowardice.” Passion and zeal for truth must always be tempered with grace and gentleness.

But one good look through the life and words of Jesus and the other biblical characters mentioned above will show that they didn’t seem to suffer from the angst which causes many people today to set aside linguistic diligence to the truth. The manner in which these people of God dealt with their knowledge of the holy is a serious rebuke to many of this generation who maintain that words ought to be a last resort when proclaiming the Gospel.

Learning once again from John MacArthur, “We need to pay more careful attention to how Jesus dealt with false teachers, what He thought of religious error, how He defended the truth, whom He commended and whom He condemned – and how little He actually fit the gentle stereotype that is so often imposed on Him today.”

Certainly we must not give verbal allegiance to our faith, then act and live in a way that betrays our words. But St. Francis, along with biblical examples of hearers, doers, and proclaimers of the Word, stand as a challenge to Christians today to boldly live and speak in a way that proclaims the worthiness of the Christ we follow.

While quite the departure from the usual Thanksgiving Thursday post, this is what was on my heart. As one writer has said, “…hesitancy to share the Gospel verbally simply will not do if you even remotely consider yourself to be a biblical Christian.” My friends, my prayer is that you not only live the life of thanksgiving and gratitude for the Good News of Jesus Christ, but that you proclaim it loud!

My Thanksgiving List 1/17/13

705. Reading the Bible to Peanut every morning during her breakfast

709. Standing with Hobby Lobby….and getting great deals while I’m at it!

714. The discipline of the Holy Spirit

740. Gingerbread Kahlua

746. That because of His great and startling mercy, we are not consumed

719. A balmy winter walk with Peanut

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720. A table FULL of groceries

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731. Peanut’s new red toy box

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723. Date night with my hot husband

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What are you thankful for

Support Hobby Lobby on January 5th

“When you come to the edge of all the light you have known and are about to step out into the darkness, faith is knowing one of two things will happen…there will be something to stand on you will be taught how to fly.”*

 

Indy Jones Faith Walk

 

Hobby Lobby, the retail arts and crafts giant, is in a fight against the Obama administration’s HHS mandate that defies their freedom of religion and forces them to provide abortifacients to employees. Hobby Lobby does pay for birth control for their staff members, yet objects to funding the morning-after pill and week-after pill, both of which can end an unborn child’s life.

The CEO of Hobby Lobby, David Green, wrote a heart-rending letter about the loss of religious freedom in America, saying, in part,

 

“When my family and I started our company 40 years ago, we were working out of a garage on a $600 bank loan, assembling miniature picture frames. Our first retail store wasn’t much bigger than most people’s living rooms, but we had faith that we would succeed if we lived and worked according to God‘s word. From there, Hobby Lobby has become one of the nation’s largest arts and crafts retailers, with more than 500 locations in 41 states…

We’re Christians, and we run our business on Christian principles. I’ve always said that the first two goals of our business are (1) to run our business in harmony with God’s laws, and (2) to focus on people more than money…We’ve not only added jobs in a weak economy, we’ve raised wages for the past four years in a row. Our full-time employees start at 80% above minimum wage.

But now…A new government health care mandate says that our family business MUST provide what I believe are abortion-causing drugs as part of our health insurance. Being Christians, we don’t pay for drugs that might cause abortions, which means that we don’t cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill. We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs…If we refuse to comply, we could face $1.3 million PER DAY in government fines.

Our government threatens to fine job creators in a bad economy. Our government threatens to fine a company that’s raised wages four years running. Our government threatens to fine a family for running its business according to its beliefs. It’s not right. I know people will say we ought to follow the rules; that it’s the same for everybody. But that’s not true. The government has exempted thousands of companies from this mandate, for reasons of convenience or cost. But it won’t exempt them for reasons of religious belief.

So, Hobby Lobby – and my family – are forced to make a choice…We believe people are more important than the bottom line and that honoring God is more important than turning a profit.

…The government is forcing us to choose between following our faith and following the law. I say that’s a choice no American – and no American business – should have to make.

The government cannot force you to follow laws that go against your fundamental religious belief…

Sincerely,
David Green, CEO and Founder of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.”

 

More than 30,000 people have signed up to take part in supporting Hobby Lobby today, January 5th, by shopping at the store nearest them.

Support Hobby Lobby

Here’s a link to a 40% off coupon to use at Hobby Lobby today. Let’s shower this organization with support, help them raise money under the threat of the fines they face, and, most importantly, pray for them!

* Author Unknown

Photo Credit

The Bucket List

  I have never had a Bucket List. There are many things I would love to do or accomplish before the end of my life, but I have never thought of anything that I would regret if it were not done before I died. And so, the story of my life has been written by the Spirit’s whisper in my ear, some carefully laid plans, and many humanly uncontrollable circumstances, but few things done with mortality as a main motivator. I would describe myself as extremely competitive against myself, but not against others. I would describe myself as driven to achieve excellence in all I do, but not driven to achieve the world’s view and idea of “success”. I love activity, action, learning, giving, and experiencing, and I hate the status quo, boredom, and mediocrity, and have come to even dislike settling into a comfort zone. But I don’t seek out the newest thrill-seeker’s high, and love an evening at home with the latest release to Redbox or a good book.

 I was contemplating the tendency of others to need a Bucket List the other day and wondering if I were missing out somehow. But nothing came to mind – outside of maybe sky-diving or climbing Mt. Everest – that would even make for an interesting Bucket List for my life. The activities that I’m blessed to enjoy definitely put my life into “a-blast-and-a-half” category, and I’ve learned to live as though every day may be my last. Yet I am simply loving every minute of this beautiful ride on the third rock from the sun as I wait to go home to my Savior and my heavenly mansion – which I picture as an Americana style mountain cottage with a rock wall, Sunflowers, Daisy’s, and a hot tub. This struck me as a very pious solution to why I don’t have a Bucket List.

 Then a thought hit me: What if a Bucket List had less to do with what I want to accomplish or experience, and more to do with what I would want to do for Christ? Faith without works, after all, is dead (James 2:20). With that in mind, I excitedly began compiling my Spiritual Bucket List: Would I choose 3 souls or 7 to have the privilege of leading to Christ in my lifetime? Would I like to teach a women’s small group or a couple’s? Would the book I want to write be on flip-flop sexual desires in marriage or Calvinism vs. Arminianism? Is my neighborhood my mission field or should I look at going to Ireland (I hear the beer is excellent there!)? Would I like to give x amount of money to Focus on the Family or Christian Law Association?

 Right in the middle of my righteous B.L. planning, God interrupted my thought process. “My thoughts are not your thoughts”, declared the Lord (Is. 55:8). “Really Lord, ’cause I’m on a roll here.” “You are My workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which I have before ordained that you should walk in them. I know the plans I have for you.” (Eph. 2:10; Jer. 29:11).

 I began to see that what He was trying to get through to me was that if it were MY Spiritual Bucket List that I accomplished through MY works I could boast, but it’s not by my might nor by my power, but by God’s Spirit working in me to walk in the Bucket List HE had planned for me to do (Eph. 2:9; Zech 4:6)! What’s important is not what I want to see done before I leave this world, it’s what He wants to see done.

 All of my pious plans dissipated in the light of His glory and grace, and I began to seek His plans for me. I asked that He would so indelibly write His Bucket List on my heart that I would clearly see it and be able to write those things out on paper. (If – and when – He gives me that list, be assured, I will share with you God’s Bucket List for me!) I began to ask that He would open the eyes of my heart to see His plans and to move the direction and events of my life to accomplish those things. I re-affirmed my desire and intent to never be conformed to the pattern of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of my mind so that I could attest and approve what His perfect will was for me, and committed to put on the mind of Christ (Rom 12:2; Phil. 2:5; 1 Cor. 2:16).

 The most exciting aspect of asking God to write my Bucket List is knowing that this is the truest way to experience a mortality-defying, thrill-seeking, high-adrenaline rush! This is the only way to live the abundant life and the best way to live above myself, all the while knowing this is the best life I can have. This IS living the quote “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive, well-preserved body, but rather to slide in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, ‘Woo-Hoo, what a ride!!’”, and all the while knowing that the next life, well, that life will be even better.

 I must admit, however, I am hoping that God will slide sky-diving and climbing Mt. Everest into His plan for me somewhere; I will happily witness to the sky diving instructor about the true leap of faith of a life lived in Christ, and what better way to experience the second coming of my Lord than at the top of Mt. Everest…Even so, come Lord Jesus! 🙂

Are You a Warrior?

This past Saturday my husband and I experienced a new adventure…we competed in The Warrior Dash, a grueling 3.27 mile race held at Copper Mountain Ski area that boasted 12 warrior feats including clamboring over junk cars, crawling through mud beneath barbed wire, climbing cargo nets, speed-stepping through tires, and leaping over 3 ½ foot tall flames of fire. OK, so the truth is that I drug my husband kicking and screaming with me on this adventure and he now highly doubts my sanity, but we had a complete blast and not only intend to do it again next year, we even have costumes picked out. Training for this unique run had me working my proverbial posterior off, but even the Manitou Incline, trail runs, treadmill runs, P90X, and Turbo Jam somehow still didn’t make me feel fit enough for this dashing day of warrior fun. So this had me wondering, if I don’t feel physically ready for a mountain race after months of training, what must it take to become a spiritually battle-ready warrior?

In a world crammed full and racing at break-neck speed toward the next thing to be done, the spiritual can become dim, even to those well aware of the powers and principalities of this present darkness against which we war. Often this can happen when things are running smoothly and circumstances seem to indicate that we have won the battle. Then the inevitable fiery darts of the enemy come flying in from somewhere in the dark and our comfortable but unprotected flesh gets pierced, and we are left reeling and bleeding and wondering: What does it take to become a battle-ready warrior?

Thankfully, we do not have a High Priest that is unable to sympathize with our weakness (Heb. 4:15), but One that outlines the rules of engagement for us in a victorious Battle Plan for the purpose of training (2 Tim 3:16)! Ephesians 6:11 is one of many Scriptures that gives insight into what is needed to stand strong, prepared, and firm, and become warriors that are more than conquerors (Rom 8:37) through Him that has overcome the world (John 16:33)!

Throughout the book of Ephesians, we see Paul showing the church of Ephesus the power, grace, provision, protection, love, and inheritance they have through Christ. In chapter 6, Paul looks to the armor of the Roman soldier to provide an adequate understanding of what is needed to be ready for the battle against the enemy of our souls. It is interesting to note both the offensive and defensive items and qualities mentioned. “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of Salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (v 14 – 17). Verse 18 puts it all together with the essential, power-giving ingredient, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.” We must be constant in prayer living minute by minute in the power God infuses within us as we lift all things up to Him for His use.

Another vitally necessary part of preparedness in the battle against darkness is fellowship with others that are engaged in the same battle we are in, on the same side of the fight, and able to encourage us and spur us on. Verse 18 continues, “…with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”

My husband and I were not the only mentally unstable adventurers in the Warrior Dash this weekend! One of my dearest friends ran the same race. After finishing (10 minutes faster than I!), she was telling me of a time in the race that she was tired, worn down, slowing down, and feeling the pain. Another runner touched her on the shoulder and said, “I’ve been following you the whole way, and there is no need to slow down now.” The encouragement, understanding, and sharpening of this fellow racer was just what my friend needed to keep going and finish the race strong. They ran the rest of the race together, silently spurring the other on. Encouragement, accountability, love, and companionship from fellow believers can be the key to staying battle-ready when feeling battle-weary (Prov 27:17; Heb 10:24; Heb 12:1).

There is an obscure story of a man in the Bible that I recently discovered. His name is Benaiah and his story is found in 2 Samuel chapter 23, verses 20 and 21. This passage describes the warrior-esque behavior and accomplishments of Benaiah. I have said this before, but I do get an absolute kick out of reading the Bible! You have got to check this one out: “He did many heroic deeds…he chased a lion down into a pit. Then, despite the snow and slippery ground, he caught and killed the lion.” In the minds of the vast majority of the general public, this would not be considered the wisest course of action. Personally, I would prefer to opt out of chasing a lion into a pit on a snowy day. King David, however, was inclined to admire this sort of warrior mentality since two verses later, “David put (Benaiah) in charge of his bodyguard.” There is not much else written on this lion-chaser, but there is much reason to believe that battle-readiness was a normal, natural way of life for him.

So as I look to the inspired Word of God, I find the answer to what I need to become and stay ready for the battle I know is before me. And the best thing? The best thing is knowing that if God is for me, none can stand against me (Rom 8:31)! The best thing is knowing that we are overcomers because He is the Overcomer (1 John 5:4; John 16:33)! In the Warrior Dash, we ran for the prize of a fuzzy viking helmet! 🙂 But spiritually, I want to finish the course and keep the faith for the reward of the crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

Bringin’ Sexy Back

I love the Bible. It fascinates me and I love how it is full of humor, heroes, action, fire falling on water-soaked wood, dry bones becoming flesh, giant-killing kids, fleece-determined battles, water-spouting rocks, fire dancing on people’s heads, vivid detail of erotic love scenes, and, my personal favorite, water turned into wine.

Wait, what?? Vivid detail of erotic love scenes? Yup, the God-breathed pages of Scripture leaves no ambiguity regarding God’s design for pleasure and passion in the physical relationship between a man and his wife; no blushing, shy, or awkward wording to describe the beauty of the marriage bed.

But given the Puritan age, the sixties, public grade school and college brainwashing, many misinformed or simply embarrassed preachers, teachers, and parents, and lack of biblical marriage preparation, I wonder how many married couples would describe themselves as lovers today. How many would say their marriage is sexy, regardless of exactly how many times a week they make love? Chris Matthews may have felt a thrill go up his leg when he heard President Obama speak, but how many married couples feel tingles when they hear their lover’s voice or feel their touch?

Yet the Creator of the universe, El Elyon, the great I AM, the One Who measured the water in the hollow of His hands and weighed the mountains on the scales, designed the one flesh relationship to be between man and wife for procreation (Gen. 1:22) and resistance to temptation (1 Cor. 7:5), and also for passionate pleasure (Prov. 5:19; Song of Solomon 7:8), tender comfort (Gen. 24:67; 2 Sam. 12:24), playful fun (Gen. 26:8), romantic love (Song of Solomon 6:3), true intimacy (Gen. 2:24; Mark 10:7), and because it is very goood (Gen. 1:31)!

Christian marriages ought to be the leading champions of fantastic sex. It is time to “bring sexy back”. It is time to strip the title “sexy” away from glossy magazine pages, inanimate computers, sex-crazed teens, Hollywood’s big screens, and cohabitating pretend-marrieds that want to play house. It’s time to bring sexy back to where it belongs: in the marriage bed.

The one-flesh creation necessitates that a husband is the only legitimate outlet for his wife’s sexual energy, desire, and need, and vice-versa. Yet many women would rather wash their husbands dirty socks than show them love in the bedroom, and many men are willing to trade in the feel of their wife’s warm flesh for the airbrushed pages of a magazine. Pornography, however, is clearly and unmistakeably prohibited in Scripture as an indefensible act of adultery in marriage. Jesus spoke without equivocation on this subject: “If a man looks at woman with lust, he has committed adultery already with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Exclusivity is the number one secret to a passionate, exciting, and enduring sex life. If you are married, make the covenant with your eyes that Job made to not look lustfully upon another (Job 31:1).

The fun thing is, there IS a secret to supporting and enabling our lovers to resist temptation and remain faithful. This secret is lots of prayer, and – get this – regular, consistent sex! 🙂 There are, of course, obstacles to be overcome in day-in, day-out married life. We can struggle with busyness, children, fatigue, exhaustion, and physical pain. These can cause lovemaking to drift to near the bottom of the to-do list. Lovemaking is, however, an essential element to the vitality and overall health of our marriages. Sex recharges physically, mentally, and emotionally, provides an outlet for dealing with life’s challenges, and has been seen to be an anti-depressant in women, as well as being a great calorie burner!

The sexual relationship of married lovers should offer each mate a place of rest, refreshment, and oasis, as well as a safe place to enjoy being ravished with love (Prov. 5:19)! We are to enjoy, be intoxicated with, captivated, exhilarated, and enraptured by the sexual love of our spouse. Michael Pearl said in his book “Holy Sex”: It is time for Christian couples to take back this sacred ground and enjoy the holy gift of sexual pleasure.” Pastor Mark Gungor echos this, saying, “Christian marriages ought to be known for great sex!” Any sex outside of the one-man, one-woman, married relationship is a forgery of the heaven-on-earth, knock-your-socks-off, angels sang, earth moved, hallelujah good time that married sex was meant to be.

It is time; it is time for married Christians to lead the way to understanding that the only way to great sex is to enjoy it within your own marriage. It is time for married couples to start delighting in what is rightfully theirs to enjoy. It is time to bring sexy back.

This blog is not meant to be a comprehensive study in married sex. Suggested resources: Intimate Issues by Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus; Intimacy Ignited by Dr. and Mrs. Dillow and Dr. and Mrs. Pintus; Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage by Pastor Mark Gungor; Red-Hot Monogamy by Bill and Pam Farrel; The Total Woman by Marabelle Morgan.